Sustainability as a Marketing Issue

More and more frequently, I’m seeing companies choose sustainability, not just as operational preference, but also as a marketing approach. They are marketing “green” or sustainability (because “green” and “sustainability” are different) as a way to connect with consumers and sell products.

Thus, when I was contacted by Don Carli, senior research fellow with the Institute for Sustainable Communications, about a three-minute video on the topic of sustainability as a marketing issue, I was intrigued. It sounded like a headline I’d write. That always gets me interested.

The video was posted on YouTube by “Three-Minute AdAge,” a daily news “show.”  What I thought was interesting about this particular video was that, while it claimed to be about marketing, it really focused on the need for sustainability, not just as a way to connect with consumers, but as a way to protect marketers’ supply chains from disruption and price spikes based on their dependence upon carbon. It was interesting how Carli tied the two together—indeed, he appeared to make the two issues inseparable.

Here are some of Carli’s comments (edited for brevity):

Whether your choice of medium is print or email, all media communications depend upon flows of energy and materials, and they do have waste streams associated with them. As marketers, we realize that marketing and advertising are essential. We have every need to make sure that the activities those depend on are secure and not subject to business interruption or price spikes because they are dependent upon petroleum that is coming from a part of the market we have no control over. We are more sensitive now to the fragility of the supply chains and resources we depend on.

The general understanding of sustainability as a concept and how it differs from the concept of “green” has become more prominent. Whether it’s the CEO of Wal-mart or General Electric, all of the CEOs of the major corporations not only understand what sustainability is but are operationalizing their businesses to address sustainability as a growth strategy.

In the current economic climate, it’s particularly important to have robust, resilient growth strategy, even in a downturn. I think it will be rocky and rough for those who don’t want to change. But change is inevitable. The status quo is not an option. When we talk about the price of carbon, even if it’s one percent and can we afford it, it’s important to understand that carbon today is cheap, but it will get more expensive. There will be regulatory program in the United States. While carbon today is expensive, ignorance will always be more expensive than carbon, and we cannot afford ignorance.

To view the entire video, click here.

Like this post? View all my “Greening Print Marketing” posts. 


Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.


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